Monday, 31 January 2011

Words to Live By #127

 Image thanks to yvette

"Eventually I discovered for myself the utterly simple prescription for creativity: be intensely yourself. Don’t try to be outstanding; don’t try to be a success; don’t try to do pictures for others to look at – just please yourself."
Ralph Steiner

Saturday, 29 January 2011

The Saturday Salute 29.01.11

Image thanks to conejoazul

Just a quicky:

// 10 Rules for Brilliant Women kind of rocked my world this week.

// We could all do with getting a little more involved.

// Find Your Voice with Positively Present.

// Be More With Less is right up my street - this is reminiscent of this and this.

// Hello new career crush - she is hosting a workshop at my university, notes on that soon!

Enjoy your weekend, flower!

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Why I Believe in Good Shoes (A Style Rebellion)

Image thanks to rubens lp

When I was sixteen, I fractured my spine. This resulted in me spending around six months regularly seeing a chiropractor, who basically told me that every pair of shoes I owned was inadequately supportive and bad for my back (and everything else).

Naturally, I didn’t listen, hell bent on maintaining my personal style above all else. She had given me some orthotic insoles and wearing those regularly was about as far as the change went. Then, several years later when I was around twenty, I was wearing my favourite pair of plastic boots, the heels of which had worn away to nothing but a treacherous slick. Of course, this was a recipe for disaster and I slipped on a marble floor and fell hard on my knee. I’ve had problems with it ever since.

If I needed any further encouragement to believe in good shoes – which I don’t – I might also consider my posture, and of course the health of my feet. When I spend a day walking in bad shoes, I feel it. I feel the dull ache in my knees; the crookedness of my posture; the twinge in my lower back – any of this sound familiar to you? I’m twenty-two and have a dodgy hip, what’s wrong with this picture?!

Not long ago Sarah Wilson discussed the same thing in her hunt for hot-but-sensible shoes, and I now feel strongly that the time has come for me to lay aside my vanity and prioritise my health. Good shoes may not always be sexy, but a body that’s working just like it should be, well, that so is. And, lucky for me, there are a whole host of people working on making good shoes look better. Here are just a few.

MBT

Okay, I’m not going to pretend these shoes go with a cocktail dress, or that they’re a cheap alternative to your regular sports shoes. They’re most definitely not either of those things, but they are great for your body. Here’s why:

The positive effect of the MBT is based on the principle of "natural instability". An effect which can, in fact, be achieved by simply walking barefoot on soft, uneven, natural ground such as sand. However, in today's thoroughly modern world this is not always easy to do. So we set out to develop a new kind of footwear, one that would mimic walking on soft, uneven ground. When walking in MBTs, the ground no longer feels flat and stable, so the body has to compensate and create stability.
My dad has worn MBT’s for a couple of years now, and while he doesn’t claim that they work miracles, he does find them comfortable, and I’ve certainly noticed more of a spring in his step! Find out more here.

OKA b

I found Oka b a while ago and thought they’d make a great affiliate for Charade for several reasons. One, for a big brand company they’re considerate of the environment. Two, they promote good-for-you shoes at très bon prix. Three, their shoes are genuinely cute (can you tell I’m a sucker for anything with a bow?)


OKA b. is founded on the principle that fashion and comfort should never be mutually exclusive. Imagine a shoe that not only looks great with every outfit but feels great with every step. A sandal given the thumbs up by your doctor and your best friend... A shoe that's 100% recyclable, waterproof, made in the USA and priced under $40. That's not only a shoe you'll love. That's a shoe that loves you.

Find a whole list of their benefits here (my favourite bits are their reflexology-inspired design and that they are vegan friendly!) They are also having a mega clearance sale, with up to 50% off and free shipping, so now’s the time to make the investment if you want to try them out.

Birkenstock

I think we just have to accept Birkenstocks for what they are: they’re never going to be the daintiest of shoes, but boy are they comfy. My main pair of sandals since last summer has been some strappy Birkenstock’s and I’ve really felt the difference. Their arch support is wholly superior to any other shoes I’ve worn, and they’re the only kind I don’t feel I need to wear my orthotic insoles with. Did you know the company is 200 years old? Me neither. 


High quality materials and unique construction give durable comfort and long lasting good looks. The concept of Birkenstock is easily understood when one considers the design of our feet and the mechanics of walking. Each contour in a Birkenstock footbed is precisely placed to stretch, flex and move naturally. Your feet benefit from free movement, constant exercise and improved circulation, resulting in long lasting comfort and better health.

Read more benefits of Birkenstock's here.

Earth Footwear

Earth have a lovely collection of cosy looking boots and strappy sandals. I’d never heard of them before researching this article, but the reviews I’ve been seeing all look really positive. I’ll let them explain how they work:

Negative Heel Technology works by positioning the toes slightly higher than the heels. This positioning is achieved by a 3.7 degree incline in the sole of the footwear and repositioning has unparalleled positive effects on the whole body. Similar to turning the incline up on a treadmill, Negative Heel Technology burn more calories with every step!


Buy them here or visit their main site for more info/ a sneak peek at their collection.

I couldn’t say which of these brands is best for you, as I’ve only seriously tried Birkenstock’s. Do consider a visit to the chiropractor if you regularly experience any of the niggling aches and pains I mentioned, and see what they have to say. And don’t forget that age old adage: prevention is better than cure, every time.

What do you say? Will you join the good shoes revolution?

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

You Tell Me... How do we Value?

Image thanks to team dalog

How much do you value your life? That may sound like a question posed by an irate bookie wielding a crowbar in a back-alley basement, but it’s a question worth considering. I don’t mean your life simply as opposed to your death, because of course then we all start stammering and pleading for the chance to go on living; I mean how much do you value the individual pieces of your life; the components that make up the abstract whole.

It has always been a struggle for me to feel gratitude – not in the sense of saying thank you, or sending a letter to my grandmother after a banknote flutters out of my birthday card – that’s simply good manners. I mean 100%, wholeheartedly, feeling it.

A lot of life is spent going through the motions: following our animal instincts for comfort, security, perhaps with just a little style and recognition. We have the opportunity to go to university so we can get well-paying jobs so we can get mortgages so we can get houses so that we can raise families... We join the dots. But when do we stop to question all this and what it means to us?

I’ve had an upbringing pretty in-conducive to experiencing a sense of value for what I receive, for what I’ve pinpointed as two main reasons:

a) I’ve had a lot: in terms of money, in terms of education, in terms of affection. Therefore, I’ve never been able to get to the root of what how much this all means; I’ve simply been greedy, asked for more, increased my expectations, and taken it all for granted.

b) I’m British, and it is not a British thing to gush. Sentimentality is not a card you openly play where I’m from; we’re supposed to quietly go about our lives in an orderly and harmonic manner, stopping to tip our caps or shake hands at appropriate intervals.

But I now think that, once we start to value things, life gains more significance; we become increasingly more conscious, and subsequently happier. I don’t just want to say ‘Hey – thanks!’ for all that I have, I want gratitude to permeate me; I want to know, and want others to know, how much every helping gesture, every spare penny, every act of love, illuminates and rewards me. What I want to know, is how to value, I mean really value, if it is more than just saying it aloud.

Perhaps a true sense of value is achieved through a habit of vulnerability. 

I’ll explain. When we are prepared to be vulnerable we are able to express truer emotions, stripped of their egotism. When we are prepared to be vulnerable we are prepared to be wrong, to say sorry, and to amend. I know that when I have the guts to put my pride on the line and admit that a lot of what I cherish is down to the specific generosity of individuals, that’s when I really feel humbled and truly grateful. But is there more to it than this? Because value is more than just gratitude, it is the continuous sensation of possessing something precious. How do we value?

You tell me!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Words to Live By #126

Image thanks to stephen

"Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark. In the hopeless swamps of the not quite, the not yet, and the not at all, do not let the hero in your soul perish and leave only frustration for the life you deserved, but never have been able to reach. The world you desire can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours."
Ayn Rand

Saturday, 22 January 2011

The Saturday Salute 22.01.11

Image thanks to scarleth

Hello pretty things! Things are a bit hectic just now (I know, 'what's new?', right?) As you read this I'm speeding off towards the Spanish skies. Back to the sunshine. Back to studying hard (honest!) Leaving old friends for new. In a way I'm feeling, sort of, been there - done that, but if I make myself focus on all the great and different experiences I can create for myself, I start to realise what a big opportunity I'm still right in the middle of. How's your year looking so far?

// I just discovered Make Under My Life and I like what I've found. I've honestly been bombarded with what I'm calling 'Career Crushes' lately, a new series on the blog perhaps?

// This is, well, how can I put it? LIFE CHANGING.

// Martin at The University Blog discusses standing out and finding success and all I can say is "Amen to that".

"The main point here is that you can start being distinctive right now. You don’t need to wait for someone to give you a green light and permission to shine. And you don’t always need to rely on another qualification just to look better on paper."

// On a similar note, Find Your Dream Career with Think Simple Now.

// Polish My Writing looks interesting, though I've yet to try it out.

Enjoy your weekend immensely, please.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

My Tarot Reading for the Coming Year: Alchemy, Abundance and Trust

You probably don’t know, but my grandmother is a pretty interesting lady. Her name is Theolyn Cortens and she writes books about angels, speaks internationally, and runs online courses in the divine. Incidentally, she also does astrological and tarot readings, and last week she was kind enough to do one with me for the first time (I called it our ‘juju’ session).

What arose was a heady shot of inspiration, reassurance, and excitement for the future – just what I needed after a flat few weeks at the end of 2010. I thought it might be interesting for some of you to see what came up in my reading, whilst recording my own thoughts about the whole thing (to review next ‘juju’ January!)

Picture the scene: we shuffled up into my grandmother’s cool attic room, I took a seat as she lit a candle, and then she asked that I pose a question to the cards. Not requiring any one specific answer, but feeling somewhat directionless in terms of the immediate future, I asked the cards what I could expect from the coming year. I then shuffled and spread out the cards, tracing my hand over them and trying to sense which one I should pick up first.

The Empress

Right away I knew this was a good card: a strong yet feminine woman, in harmony with all that surrounds her, but this was just the beginning. The significance of the tree is that the Empress is ‘grounded in the earth’ whilst still ‘guided by her heart’, which is perhaps why she is looking out into the distance. This immediately struck a big ol’chord with me. Groundedness; the word that’s been spinning in my head like a screensaver for months; the thing I’ve felt lacking in my life; the thing I’m craving more than anything else. I’m good at following my heart – too good, perhaps – but have found it difficult to keep a sense of rootedness amid all my hopping around. My grandmother suggested getting back in touch with my body as a way of connecting with my ‘correct centre’ as I ‘probe the spiritual plane’, and this suggested Pilates to me – a form of exercise based entirely upon our centre, which I’ve thrived on in the past but let slip over the years. The Empress also ‘signifies the potential to attract great abundance’ and is a representation of ‘the alchemical vessel’. Good start, I thought.

Justice

‘Ooh!’ rang my grandmother’s voice, and I knew I’d got another goody. Another strong female figure, but with quite a different message: whilst she suggests that ‘right action should be based on sound judgement and truth’ the presence of water reminds us of the importance of our ‘intuition’. DING DING DING! I thought. I’m a prize-planner, obsessive analyser and a stickler for structure. I constantly feel that if I just choose and order logical goals for myself, I can’t go wrong, often without stopping to consider my gut feeling at all. I recently found a Masters programme that I’d love to complete, but something has been holding me back from filling out the necessary forms. This card reminded me that it’s okay to listen to my intuition, and that now is perhaps not the right time for the course. As the book said ‘in Justice there are subtleties that are beyond our grasp... in the end, we must simply give her our trust’.

King of Coins

With the suggestion that I ground myself, before navigating a path ahead between logic and intuition, lastly I picked The King of Coins; ‘the essence of satisfaction’ as ‘the result of physical balance and harmony with nature’ (both points that I’d picked up from the previous two cards!) The message with this card, I was told, is to ‘honour’ my ‘instincts’; to ‘act in strength and possess the courage to pursue what [I] want’. It was pressed, however, that ‘wellbeing is best achieved when this is done without attachment to the end result.’ I couldn’t help but be overwhelmingly pleased that, after a shaky few weeks of doubting myself, doubting how I’ll support myself, and just doubting in general – here was a message that I must stay courageous and that everything will work out.

What they have in common...

It seems quite apparent to me that the three cards represent a loose beginning/middle/end structure, pointing out where I need to be in the present, the balance I need to maintain in the decisions that will lead me forward on my proverbial life’s path, and the satisfaction I’m destined for if I can just keep up the courage to pursue my ambitions. All in all I think I’ve a pretty amazing year ahead of me.

What do you think? Have you ever, or would you ever, get a tarot reading? Has this inspired you?

Monday, 17 January 2011

Words to Live By #125

Image thanks to kelsey

"Dont bend; dont water it down; dont try to make it logical; dont edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly."
Franz Kafka

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The Saturday Salute 15.01.2011

Image thanks to jenny

Hello to another Saturday! One day I'll stop moaning about how quickly the weeks pass by, and just start living in them. As was quoted in Gone With the Wind, which I re-watched with my mum last night:

"Do not squander time for that is the stuff life is made of." Benjamin Franklin

Without further ado, then, here is my life in links!

// Uncomfortable with the concept of the "law" of attraction? So is Mark from the Heart of Business blog. Verrrry interesting, read Part One here, and Part Two here (which I haven't read yet but am hankering to).

// Everett Bogue discusses Transparency and Your Digital Self.

// Obedience and the GPS by Seth Godin is pure gold.
// How to Be Alone is spectacular:

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Featured Sponsor: Kembrel

So, as their banner has been hovering temptingly in the right sidebar for a couple of weeks, you’ve probably noticed that my major sponsor for the month of January is Kembrel. If you haven’t already visited their website, I thought you might like to know a little more about them.

Kembrel.com is a one-stop shop for college students wanting to keep up to date with the latest fashions and still be stylish on a budget. Founded by three graduate students at Wharton Business School, the site is run entirely by college students and recent graduates. New sales are launched on an almost daily basis, with hot items from American Apparel and Original Penguin, to trendy eco-friendly brands like SUST and Zuriick, all up to 80% off!


And it isn't just clothes that Kembrel carries; they have the latest gadgets ranging from Livio Radios to trendy laptop and Ipad accessories. A popular recent sale, for example, was of Hydros Bottles, which are available in trendy colours and come with a built in water filter.

Whether you're looking for dorm room posters, trendy jewellery and shoes, tech supplies, or a hot new wardrobe, Kembrel really has it all. With a no-questions-asked return policy, check out the site and do some shopping from the comfort of your dorm room!

Remember that by visiting Kembrel.com you’ll be supporting Charade and, as they are a new business, I’m sure they would appreciate your firsthand feedback, so let them, or me, know what you think. Happy sales shopping!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Words to Live By #124

Image thanks to courtney

"Live out of your imagination, not your history."
Stephen Covey

Saturday, 8 January 2011

The Saturday Salute 08.01.11

Image thanks to danielle

One week down, fifty one to go! Not that I'm wishing them away, I'm actually willing this year to go by s-l-o-w-l-y, though I have the distinct sensation that this will not be the case. I'm at the family home in the Welsh countryside again this weekend, which tends to slow life down a little at least. How is the year feeling for you so far - speedy or sure and steady? Whatever the case, hopefully these links will provide a welcomed moment of distraction!

// Freelance Students looks like a great site if you're looking for some work experience whilst still at university.

// 21 Habits of Happy People is a good reminder.

// I love this story! Reminds me how simple writing can be, and still be really great.

// The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written. Better start reading now then!

// My friend gave me The XX's album for Christmas and I can't get enough. Islands would be my favourite.

Have an entirely lovely weekend!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Just Keep Getting Better

Image thanks to courtney

“To change and to change for the better are two different things.” 
German Proverb

You’re too hard on yourself. Your ambitions outweigh your success (who’s don’t?) and suddenly you’re a good-for-nothing nobody. Rejection, self-deprecation, dreams so big that you feel you’re merely floating in an abyss trying to go about achieving them – any of this sound familiar? It’s sure the way I feel a lot of the time.

What matters, of course, is that we try; that we attempt our goals. Just by trying, you are one of a magical, minute percentage of individuals who go after what they want, as opposed to what is conveniently presented to them. You may not know it, but you’re already up there with the greats.

If you’ve taken just one step towards what you want, even if that’s merely announcing it, writing it down, sending an email, making a phone call, making an application – whatever – you’ve made it onto the yellow brick road. You’re there, sister. Now, it’s all about walking. From experience, we know you’ll meet bad witches, glitches, and slumber-inducing poppy fields, but no one, absolutely nobody whom you perceive to have ‘made it’, has completely avoided these hurdles.

The key to emerald city is this: just keep getting better. We know we are often our own worst critics, but that’s just one side of the coin, and I think deep down you know you can be your own biggest fan – even if that seems to ‘vain’ to admit. It’s okay with me if you keep it to yourself, just try and believe it. Only then can you go forward, aware that, whatever comes, you are able to keep improving; in small ways, massive ways, or average-everyday-ways.

At this time of year it seems people are either rabidly pursuing absurd resolutions, or wallowing in the failures of the past year. It is up to you to navigate a path between these extremes, knowing that, sure, it’s a slow process, but you get better every day; you got better last year and you’ll get even better this year.

Task: Think of one tiny improvement you can make today, regarding your biggest goal. For me it’s writing a new tagline for Charade. For you it might be writing a life roadmap, identifying a mentor, starting on the journey to Make Your Life Amazing, learning some new facts about your industry, or taking an action step such as applying for an internship.

Once you’ve completed this small improvement, take a moment to metaphorically glance over your shoulder at all the minor improvements you’ve made to get from wherever you were to wherever you are. Perhaps at school you were shy but you now have a great circle of friends; maybe last summer you were groaning about not having done any work experience and now you have something great organised. These things matter, but we have a nasty habit of discounting them as soon as they’re complete: our focus doggedly directed at the ‘ultimate goal’. But remember: it is the pieces that produce the puzzle, the thread that forms the tapestry, and the notes that make the song.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Erasmus: An Insider's Guide

Me musing at the beach, Spain

For those of you who don’t know what Erasmus is, the basic concept is this: it is a European University exchange programme that provides funding for ‘mobility students’, aka students on the move. And this year, I’ve been one of them.

When I first announced that I was embarking on this big adventure, I mused that I might start a sort of diary to give the real insider-scoop on my experiences. That, however, didn’t come to fruition and there’s one big reason why: Erasmus engulfs you, fully and totally, and flailing around trying to keep together all the fragments of your old life (read: boyfriend, blog, friendships) will be a tough enough test on its own without the addition of recording your every move. True story.

That said, the month of January has so far proved to be a (welcomed) quiet one, and so I have time to review my experience at the halfway mark, and give you some insight if you’re considering Erasmus yourself.

Who? What? Why?

For a less personal version of what exactly Erasmus entails, you can visit their UK website here. If you’re not British, ask around at your home university for the right person to talk to.

Erasmus Accommodation

Your accommodation options and experiences will, of course, change depending on your destination. I can only guide you from the point of view of relocating to a medium-sized western-European city, but I hope this will apply to a lot of you.

It is more than likely that the university you’re visiting will provide some kind of accommodation, and this can be extremely tempting for its ease and sense of security. However, you should be very aware that this is not always the best option financially, nor does it provide the unique challenge of setting yourself up independently. I know that if I had opted for university accommodation, not only would I have been deeply uninspired by my surroundings (I ended up spending my first few nights in the university halls as an alternative to a hostel), but I would have also been paying around three times as much as I am now. That’s not an exaggeration.

Need to Know: It will probably be difficult to arrange private accommodation before arriving at your Erasmus destination, but don’t let this perturb you as the landlords/ladies of any Erasmus university town will likely be well-versed in the requirements of Erasmus students, and your university will probably provide a database of options. Try to buddy-up with a few potential housemates in advance, either coming with you from your home university or Erasmus students from further afield, whom you can probably be put in touch with via your coordinator or Facebook.

Erasmus Funding

I won’t lie to you; the financial benefit of the Erasmus Exchange Programme was one of the major pulls for me to take part. As a UK student, if you do a full year’s placement, not only are your university fees for that year waived (were talking over £3,500), you also receive a monthly allowance to assist with the extra costs of studying abroad. Seriously, unless you are incredibly lucky and/or savvy, when is anyone, ever again, going to PAY you to go and live in another country? Precisely.

Need to Know: For the 2010/11 academic year my Erasmus grant has been €225 per month (be aware that this figure varies across Europe, and from year to year). However, don’t be seduced by the grant or naive about costs, and allow for big expenditure in your first month abroad as you set yourself up. With my rental deposit etc., I somehow managed to spend well over €1000 in my first month in Spain.

Erasmus Travel

I love travel, and I do it a lot. For that reason Erasmus seemed perfect for me, and this is one of the key facets of the whole experience that has truly exceeded my expectations. In the few months I have spent in Spain so far I’ve visited Barcelona twice, camped on the beach at Delta Del Ebre, hiked in the mountains, moseyed around monasteries, Christmas shopped in Madrid, and hopped across to Africa. What’s more, I only predict more of the same in the Spring semester, with visits to Valencia, Sevilla and even Portugal, on the cards.

Need to Know: Leave space in your budget (and timetable) for travel, even if this only comes in the form of day-trips. Don’t waste the opportunity of a whole new European base to explore the many corners of the continent from.

Making Friends on Erasmus

I’ve written before on The Art of Making New Friends and, unsurprisingly, those tips all apply here. As a UK student, I’m used to a certain amount of reservation, both in myself and others, alleviated only after months of friendship or copious consumption of alcohol! (Terrible – I know – but true.) With other students of the EU, this is quite different. Whilst the alcohol is still a major player, there is much less reservation in general. I can’t express my joy and surprise when, at one of the first organised Erasmus events, I was approached by a string of students, thrusting out there hands for a handshake and confidently introducing themselves. For many of you, this will seem totally normal, but in Britain, unfortunately, that’s rarely how things are done. This has made making friends a hundred times less intimidating, and encouraged me to be far more confident in the way I approach people.

One unfortunate truth is that you will likely notice a clear divide between native students of your placement university, and Erasmus students. It’s easy to make friends with other Erasmus students as there will be a plethora of events on offer at which you’ll see the same faces again and again. Native students, however, apart from a rare and wonderful few (often those who have experienced Erasmus themselves) will largely appear more serious, and less inclined to start up a chat with you. If you’re determined to make local friends, be prepared to be speaking the language and making a great deal of conscious effort.

Need to Know: The social side is a huge part of Erasmus; you’ll likely make friends for life and improve your social skills tremendously. Don’t be disheartened if making local friends is a little trickier, just be a friendly face and make as much effort as possible with the language.

Erasmus Studying & Grading

Unfortunately, there is a reason that this aspect of Erasmus arrives low on my list. If you undertake Erasmus there is so much more to it than simply the academic challenge; there will likely be the challenge of a new language, of meeting hundreds of new people all in one go, of setting yourself up independently in a whole new place etc.

In terms of grading, again I have to point out that this is my personal experience as a UK student, and I know there are big variations. My grades have been given under the ECTS system and, as I am studying abroad for a full academic year rather than just one semester, the year is contributing towards my degree on a pass/fail basis. This means the grade I receive for my degree overall will be based only on my second year grade – which is great for me as I totally exceeded my own expectations last year. This may seem like “cheating” or a sort of loophole, but for me it means I am rewarded for my hard work whilst still maintaining, both a pure interest in my subject (rather than regimented pressure), and my sanity in my final year. In some cases I know that doing Erasmus may mean you’ll need to repeat a year at your home university, it’s best to find your Erasmus coordinator and have a chat.

Need to Know: Whilst you may not be traditionally challenged in the academic sense, you will gain so much more. Be prepared to lay aside elitism and get back in touch with your natural and independent love for your subject. Let the idea of “just passing” be okay with you, knowing that you’re gaining so many more life skills from the experience.

Making the Transition: The Emotional Side of Erasmus

We often talk of ‘change’ as though it is a conscious decision; as if we have the choice to sit up and say ‘okay, I’m ready to change now’. The truth is, however, that change is often something that merely happens to us – sometimes we have very little say in the matter and can only ride the wave of consequence. This concept pretty much sums up my experience of Erasmus so far.

Though I knew moving to a new country, a new university, and a whole new social circle would entail a great deal of change – it was not these conscious, expected changes that were the real challenge. There was a deeper change that went on; one it’s difficult to even put my finger on; one that whipped every element of my existence up into frenzy in many positive and negative forms. My health, both emotional and physical, has suffered as a result.

I don’t intend this to put you off. Though Erasmus has been one of the hardest experiences of my life, it has also been one of the best; challenge and reward generally manifest themselves hand-in-hand in this way. The best way I can describe it is just like normal life, only concentrated, magnified, or on fast-forward. Every moment brings more and more that you have to deal with, and adding this to trying to keep things ticking over back at home makes for one big mixing-bowl of mayhem.

Need to Know: Emotionally, Erasmus will take you on that proverbial rollercoaster, but it will be one of the best rides of your life. Be sure that you have strong relationships at home to keep you grounded, the ability to assert your own personality and needs in new situations, and are capable of listening and responding to those needs. Making time for yourself is essential, in the form of quiet journaling or taking walks.

Have you experienced Erasmus? Where did you go and what were the highlights? Any advice? And for those thinking of taking the plunge – any questions? I understand it’s a big scary step, so don’t be afraid to voice your fears!

Monday, 3 January 2011

Words to Live By #123

Image thanks to rosemary

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." 
Anne Frank

Saturday, 1 January 2011

The Saturday Salute 01.01.2011

 yes, that would be me with a pint. I'm just classy that way.

Happy New Year my twinkling troop of trailblazers! And how are you? How was your Christmas? Your NYE festivities? I'm all over the place right now, read: Spain - England - Wales, and back again. Nevertheless, I'm putting all my energy into spicing up the blog and blowing your minds with bucket-loads of wholesome content in the next twelve months.

If you're new to Charade, The Saturday Salute is a weekly spot where I give a nod to the websites, articles, shops and blogs that have caught my attention and, I think, are worthy of sharing. So, without further ado, let us start the year off right with a neat little list of lipsmacking links, shall we?

// Seriously-sorted Sally of Already Pretty fame has Some Thoughts on Style Blogging and Apparent Perfection:

"No blogger reveals her whole self to her readership. Not even me. ...Reading someone’s blog gives you access to a tiny sliver of her life, the sliver she has chosen to share. And filtering out the bad stuff is her prerogative, as is focusing on triumphs, prized skills, amazing photos, best outfits, and cool new purchases."

// I can't wait to have a go at the 'clean sweep' assessment

"The Clean Sweep Program is a checklist of 100 items which, when completed, give one complete personal freedom. These 100 items are grouped in 4 areas of life with 25 in each group: Physical Environment, Well-being, Money and Relationships. These 4 areas are the cornerstone for a strong and healthy life and the program helps a person to clean up, restore and polish virtually every aspect of his/her life. The program takes between 6 - 24 months to complete."

// My newest career-crush, Martha Beck, says Live Like a Lion, Love!

// Jovial Charade-reader, Jodi, gives a shout-out to CouchSurfing.org and I have to second it! I recently had my first experience of surfing in Madrid and it was brilliant. Plus, her blog is looking sha-weet, so go show her some adventurous enthusiasm.

// Like A Vegan is a sexy site for those superhero animal-product-avoiders among you. 

I hope your January 1st 2011 is bringing everything you'd hoped for. Besos! (that means 'kisses' in Spanish).

Make Your Life Amazing


There is something about that zingy sensation that the New Year brings, that no amount of clichés (fresh start, clean slate, new chapter etc.) can detract from. Somehow, you just feel new. Life is a cool drink of lemonade and you're thirsty for it. What better time to harness the immense power of your posisitve attitude and channel it into big change and a new kind of amazing life adventure? Well, sister, I'm here to help you out.

At the crest of the wave that was 2010, I vowed to post every day in the month of January with only one endeavour: to make your (mine, our) life amazing. That's 31 soul-inspiring, mojo-moving, deeply-delightful days of life shifting, hopefully resulting in one big existence upgrade.

I want you to repeat this process every year - every month, even - whenever you feel you need to 'check back in' with who you are, have a conversation with yourself, and re-enrich your life with the dreamy-go-getter-goals that lie just beneath your surface. Therefore I've compiled all the articles here in one post so that you can navigate around them enthusiastically and easily. Be the better you, be out there, be amazing.

You Will Need:

  • A notebook, pen and pencil
  • A heck-load of enthusiasm and gallant gusto!

31 Days. Go.

1. Why You’re Standing at the Edge of Your Dream Life and Refusing to Jump in
2. The ‘Self Survey’
3. How to Reclaim Your True Individuality
4. How to Get a Successful Mindset
5. How to Keep a Clean Slate with Yourself
6. The Real Secret of Quitting Bad Habits
7. How to Revel in Your Own Life
8. Make Today a Change Day!
9. Get to Know Your Productive Self
10. How to Create Confidence
11. How to Believe in Yourself
12. Sell Yourself, to Yourself
13. How to Write Powerful Daily Affirmations – and Make them Work!
14. What You Need to Know About Happiness and Determination
15. Be Thankful
16. Don’t Get Jealous, Get Better
17. Focus on Friendship
18. How You Can Benefit from Doing Things for Other People
19. Influence Others for Success
20. Mining for Love
21. Make the Most of Your Time
22. Play a Character
23. Celebrate Your Style
24. Take Yourself on a Creative Date
25. How to Find and Follow Your Bliss
26. Create Your Path
27. Be Conscious, Be Yourself
28. Lead an Extra Life: Read a Book
29. Make Your Money Creatively
30. Focus on Fun
31. A Guide to Doing Things Your Way

I lust after your comments and feedback - so email me for questions, support, or just to let me know how your getting along. Good luck star-gazer, I'm with you all the way.

IMPORTANT EXTRA NOTE: If you would like to republish any or all of the Make Your Life Amazing articles on your own blog or website, please do! All I ask is for a credited link back to www.charadestyle.com 

Spread that love.